TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has received an application for a Department of the Army permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1344) as described below:
APPLICANT: Saint Johns Development Partners, LLC.
Attn. Ms. Lisa Davis, Manager
11975 Aladdin Road
Jacksonville, Florida 32223
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States (wetlands) associated with Durbin Creek. The project site is located on a 42.29-acre parcel identified as 5404 Race Track Road (St. Johns County Property Appraiser Parcel Identification Number 023520-0000), in Section 5, Township 5 South, Range 28 East, St. Johns, St. Johns County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From downtown Jacksonville, take Interstate 95 south to Exit 6 for FL-9B South toward County Road 2209 and merge onto FL-9B. Take exit 6 toward Race Track Road. Continue on W Peyton Parkway and turn right and continue onto Race Track Road to site on the right.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 30.102435°
Basic: The basic project purpose is mixed-use commercial/institutional development.
Overall: The overall project purpose is mixed-use commercial/institutional development serving north-central and northwest St. Johns County.
Existing Conditions: The subject property is approximately 42.29-acres in size and is bound to the north by Rack Track Road and a residential/commercial development directly to the north, a non-developed property to the east and south of the project location, and a commercial/institutional development to the east.
Project History: On 14 October 2016, an application was submitted to the Corps. On 18 August 2017, the application was withdrawn due to lack of applicant response. On 16 July 2018, an application was submitted to the Corps. On 7 November 2018 a Notice of Intent to Issue a permit was issued notifying the applicant that the Corps is prepared to take final action on the application, but the State Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) and Coastal Zone Management (CZM) was required in order to issue the federal authorization. On 22 December 2020, the State of Florida assumed a portion of the Section 404 of the Clean Water Act program and beganprocessing applications for projects that involved the discharge of dredged or fill material located in assumed waters of the United States. On 23 March 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) objected to the State’s review of the project under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), and the project was transferred back to the Corps to be reviewed.
Elevations: Upland areas on the site generally are located above the 20-foot contour. The contours generally slope from west to east/south toward the onsite wetlands, which generally occur below the 20-foot contour. Surface runoff from the site enters roadside ditches along both Race Track Road and the onsite wetlands. The wetlands located on the east and south sides of the property serve as a portion of the headwater of Durbin Creek.
Soils: The Soil Survey of St. Johns County, Florida [U.S.D.A., Soil Conservation Service (SCS), 1983] identifies one soil type on the property, Terra Ceia muck, frequently flooded (code 66). Terra Ceia muck, frequently flooded, is a very poorly drained, nearly level soil on narrow to broad flood plains along rivers and streams. It is primarily in the western part of St. Johns County along the St. Johns River and its tributaries. In most years under natural conditions, the seasonal high water table is at the surface, except during extended dry periods. Typically, the surface layer is dark reddish brown muck about 35 inches thick.
Vegetative Community Types: The project site encompasses six community types identified by the Florida Land Use, Cover, and Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS). The communities types are unimproved pasture (FLUCFCS code 213), open land / rural structures (FLUCFCS code 260), pine – mesic oak (FLUCFCS code 414), mixed wetland hardwoods (FLUCFCS code 617), borrow area (FLUCFCS code 742), and upland spoil berms (FLUCFCS code 743).
Unimproved Pasture (approximately 14.14 acres) – This community was previously used and maintained as pasture for cattle. In recent years that cattle have been removed; however, mowing has continued periodically. Vegetation includes Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), winged sumac (Rhus copallina), goldenrod (Solidago sp.), slash pine (Pinus elliottii), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) and southern red cedar (Juniperus silicicola).
Open Land/Rural Structures (approximately 6.60 acres) – Rural structures and open areas dominate this community. Bahia grass is the dominant vegetation.
Pine – Mesic Oak (approximately 1.65 acres) - This community generally has a mixed canopy of laurel oak (Quercus hemispherica) and slash pine (Pinus elliottii). The understory vegetation includes scattered saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra). Groundcover is sparse; but includes scattered bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum).
Mixed Wetland Hardwoods (approximately 16.43 acres) – This community has a canopy that includes red maple (Acer rubrum), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica var. biflora). The understory and groundcover generally include Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), lizard’s-tail (Saururus cernuus), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), and Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica).
Borrow Area (approximately 2.66 acres) – This area on the site is the result of the excavation of material from the site.
Upland Spoil Berms (approximately 0.81 acres) – These small scattered features at the site are the result of the deposition of soil.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to discharge clean fill material over a total of 2.14 acres of mixed hardwood wetlands. The project would be implemented in two phases. Phase 1 (encompassing 34.90 acres) would result in the discharge of clean fill over a total of 1.47 acres of mixed hardwood wetlands. Phase 2 (encompassing 7.39 acres) would result in the discharge of clean fill over a total of 0.67 acre of mixed hardwood wetlands. The work proposed would facilitate the establishment of an indoor sports complex, commercial/retail stores, and a church.
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION – The applicant has expressed the opinion that the project requires large, rectangular, box-shaped spaces for the various proposed facilities (indoor sports complex, commercial/retail, and church buildings). The applicant further expressed the opinion that the removal of any of the proposed components would render the project economically infeasible; and, as such, all of the proposed components are necessary to the viability of the project. In consideration of that analysis, the applicant indicated that the location/orientation of the various components avoids and minimizes work affecting wetlands to the maximum extent practicable.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavaoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
The applicant would purchase 1.29 Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) credits from a federally approved mitigation bank with a service area encompassing the project site.
The Corps is aware of recorded historic resources within or adjacent to the permit area and is evaluating the undertaking for effects to historic properties as required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. This public notice serves to inform the public of the proposed undertaking and invites comments including those from local, State, and Federal government Agencies with respect to historic resources. Our final determination relative to historic resource impacts may be subject to additional coordination with the State Historic Preservation Officer, those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area, and other interested parties.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Wood stork and eastern indigo snake and would have no effect on the Eastern Black Rail and Whooping Crane (Grus americana). The Corps will request U.S. Fish and Wildlife/National Marine Fisheries Service concurrence with this determination pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
May Affect Not likely to Adversely Affect
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana): The project site is within the Core Foraging Area of the Dee Dot Ranch (594004) Wood Stork colony; however, the project would affect less than 0.5 acre of suitable foraging habitat for Wood Storks. In consideration of this information, the Corps utilized The Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville Ecological Services Field Office and State of Florida Effect Determination Key for the Wood Stork in Central and North Peninsular Florida, September 2008, to determine potential effects upon this species. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously indicated that they concur with determinations of may affect, not likely to adversely affect based on the key for Wood Storks; and, that no additional consultation is necessary.
Eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi): The proposed work is connected to an upland area; therefore, potential impacts to the eastern indigo snake were evaluated using Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Determination Key 2013. Use of this key resulted in the sequence A-B-C-may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, as the applicant has agreed to implement the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake, August 12, 2013. The FWS has indicated that they concur with determinations of may affect, not likely to adversely affect based on the key for eastern indigo snakes; and, that no additional consultation is necessary.
Eastern Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis ssp. Jamaicensis): The species is listed as an IPAC species in the Flagler County range, per U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Therefore, the Corps evaluated potential effects to this species. Black rails require dense vegetative cover that allows movement underneath the canopy. Because birds are found in a variety of salt, brackish, and freshwater marsh habitats that can be tidally or non-tidally influenced, plant structure is considered more important than plant species composition in predicting habitat suitability. When shrub densities become too high, the habitat becomes less suitable for eastern black rails. Soils are moist to saturated, occasionally dry, and interspersed with, or adjacent to, very shallow water of 1 – 6 centimeters. Eastern black rail habitat can be tidally or non-tidally influenced, and range in salinity from salt to brackish to fresh. Tidal height and volume vary greatly between the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and therefore, contribute to differences in salt marsh cover plants in the bird’s habitat. In the northeastern United States, the eastern black rail can typically be found in salt and brackish marshes with dense cover but can also be found in upland areas of these marshes. Further south along the Atlantic coast, eastern black rail habitat includes impounded and unimpounded salt and brackish marshes. The project site is absent of marsh, per GoogleEarth imagery analysis, and hosts mixed wetland hardwoods on site, the site is not suitable for Eastern Black Rail Habitat. Therefore, the Corps determined the proposed work would have no effect on this species.
Whooping Crane (Grus americana): This project site is located within wetland habitat which could be utilized by the species for foraging and breeding. This species breeds, migrates, winters, and forages in a variety of wetland and other habitats, including coastal marshes and estuaries, inland marshes, lakes, ponds, wet meadows and rivers, and agricultural fields. For feeding, whooping cranes primarily use shallow, seasonally, and semi permanently flooded palustrine wetlands for roosting, and various cropland and emergent wetlands. Whooping cranes are omnivorous, probing the soil subsurface with their bills and taking foods from the soil surface or vegetation. While the habitat features in the proposed project area have the potential to be utilized by this species, there is a low likelihood of them being impacted by the proposed project due to their small range and estimated population size of this species in Florida. Therefore, the Corps determined the proposed work would have no effect on this species.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): This notice initiates consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service on EFH as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1996. The project would not affect marine or estuarine habitat. Therefore, the Corps’ initial determination is that the proposed action would not adversely affect EFH or federally managed fisheries in the St. Johns River. Our final determination relative to project impacts and the need for mitigation measures is subject to review by and coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Navigation: The proposed activity is not located in the vicinity of a federal navigation channel.
SECTION 408: The applicant will not require permission under Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (33 USC 408) because the activity, in whole or in part, would not alter, occupy, or use a Corps Civil Works project.
NOTE: This public notice is being issued based on information furnished by the applicant. This information has not been verified or evaluated to ensure compliance with laws and regulation governing the regulatory program. The jurisdictional line has not been verified by Corps personnel.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Jacksonville Permits Section, P.O. Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232 within 30 days from the date of this notice.
The decision whether to issue or deny this permit application will be based on the information received from this public notice and the evaluation of the probable impact to the associated wetlands. This is based on an analysis of the applicant's avoidance and minimization efforts for the project, as well as the compensatory mitigation proposed.
QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Janice Price, in writing at the Jacksonville Permits Section, P.O. Box 4970, Jacksonville, Florida 32232; by electronic mail at Janice.R.Price@usace.army.mil; by facsimile transmission at (904) 232-1904; or, by telephone at (904) 570-4542.
EVALUATION: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered including cumulative impacts thereof; among these are conservation, economics, esthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historical properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food, and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and in general, the needs and welfare of the people.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is soliciting comments from the public; Federal, State, and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other Interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this determination, comments are used to assess impacts to endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.
WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION: Water Quality Certification may be required from the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRMWD). The project is being reviewed under SJRWMD application no. 109-166890-1.
COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In Florida, the State approval constitutes compliance with the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan. In Puerto Rico, a Coastal Zone Management Consistency Concurrence is required from the Puerto Rico Planning Board. In the Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources permit constitutes compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Plan.
REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Any person may request a public hearing. The request must be submitted in writing to the District Engineer within the designated comment period of the notice and must state the specific reasons for requesting the public hearing.